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Book Review of “The Sari Shop Widow” by Shobhan Bantwal

The Sari Shop Widow

By Shobhan Bantwal

Shobhan

When the book reached me I wanted to start it at that very moment. There was something about the cover that caught my attention. From the time I turned the pages there was no stopping. At least for quite a bit of the 360-page book.

The main protagonist, Anjali Kapadia, an American-Indian, is a widow who runs her parents sari shop “Silk & Sapphires”. Their exquisite tasteful collection is devoured by most but with the rising competition and building recession, bankruptcy is round the corner for the Kapadia family. Strange how the folks running it don’t realize it until the last minute, and thus look to seek help.

To save their face and their shop, Anjali’s father calls his brother – Jeevan Kapadia, a rich/wealthy businessman from India. When he comes visiting to evaluate the business, he brings his business partner along – Rishi Shah – a complete charmer. With hidden motives none-the-less.

Though Anjali and her mother don’t trust this grey-eyed British Indian, there is something that draws Anjali to him all the more. An empowering attraction that captures her. But what she doesn’t know is a secret that unveils to shake-n-stir them all.

Though the plot of the book is fairly predictable (at least it was for me), the characters stand out with their unique personalities. The premise of the story has it all – love, culture, trust, hope, despair, sex, betrayal, courage, etc. The writing seemed quite effortless and flow- just right.

The characters have depth. Most readers are sure to find a connect with Anjali, or empathize with her.

Though glimpses of life in New Jersey, through Anjali’s story, seemed a bit predictable, the way Anjali has a fling with Rik, her “no-strings-attached” sexual escapades with him, her (fatal) attraction towards Rishi, her loyalty to her sari shop, her undying love for Vik (her late husband), her encounter with Rishi (and his girlfriend) – made the story quite interesting (for those who like chick-lit/romance genre).

The climax, yes, ended a bit abruptly. It could use a little more depth (just like the story overall).

The author brings out the colours (of culture and her characters) quite well. There’s drama, humour, emotions, love, and yes- a bit of senseless entertainment, all mixed well to make it a yummy “masala” read.

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Book Review of “The Newsroom Mafia” by Oswald Periera

It’s true…and proven time and again – men opt for a “crime-thriller-suspense” novel when it comes to writing. And rightly so. They have a knack to capture and portray the precise feelings associated with the genre. And Oswald Periera does complete justice to his debut novel- The Newsroom Mafia that offers more than just the thrill of being a media-related-crime story.

The story is about how the Mumbai police commissioner Donald Fernandez puts all his efforts in nabbing the don, Narayan Swamy, with the help of Oscar Pinto, a young crime reporter with “The Newsroom”, one of India’s most venerable newspapers. But we see how Swamy’s ties in the media are stronger, and more effective than Fernandez can think of. How some of the “exclusive” stories were planted and how most police officials, reporters and politicians were mere pawns controlled by the don, is scripted quite brilliantly by the author.
The battle of power, and wits, played with dirty tactics by both, the law breakers and the law abiders raises a lot many questions in the mind of the reader, regarding the authenticity and the truthfulness of the media and the people attached to it.
Rightfully the book description says, “The Newsroom Mafia captures the unholy alliance between the fourth estate, the underworld and the government”.
The narrative is riveting. The language is simple and lucid; the pace perfect to keep you turning page-after-page without a break; and the description of places/situations/events and the people so meticulous and faithful that it breathes life in to the words.
The story is more of an eye-opener about things that happen in the media industry and how people (read: cops, politicians, the underworld and media) work their ways around situations and their counter-parts. What happens behind the curtains and the camera is only known to the insiders. Oswald bares the truth, and how!
Who says money can’t buy everything. In today’s world, the media is offered a more-than-handsome-amount to not print/publish/uncover stories that are critical and important for the public.

To say that not everyone is as corrupt or dishonest is true. But the number (or percentage) of such honest folks is minuscule.

The author’s background as a crime reporter gives him the leverage to churn out such a fantastic piece of crime-thriller. With such in depth research and insight, the book feels more real than just “a piece of fiction”.

MUST MUST MUST READ!

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Interview with Rajiv Kumar

When I started posting book reviews, I wasn’t sure I’ll make it this far. I like it when authors appreciate the reviews (good/bad/ugly) and ask for more!

It always brings in a smile to see a new book awaiting my eyes and thoughts, and when Rajiv Kumar’s Navarasa By Lotus arrived at my desk, I was intrigued. The book definitely is a must read, and to know why I say that- read the review!

I could sense that for a first time author, Rajiv Kumar was nervous being interviewed (even over the emails!)
Don’t worry Rajiv, I understand how you feel (err…or maybe not!)

Anyway, here’s the author’s very first interview! (As confessed by him!)

Beginning with the ever clichéd question: What got you started with writing short stories? What are
your earliest memories of writing (I wouldn’t mind if you begin all the way back from school days!)
My failure in writing an interesting full length novel made me write short stories!
Somewhere in class four or five, the English text book contained a short story by Ruskin Bond. The story was about a half blind person traveling in a train and his beautiful co-passenger. The ending of the story left me in a state which is hard to explain. Even now, I get goose-bumps when I think about it. That is when I noticed the power of narration. But at that age I had no distinction between a short story and a novel. In class ten, I started an ambitious project of writing a story (novel)! Which I consider my first shot at writing, but the idea was immature and the interest faded out. The idea of writing went into hibernation until my
graduation. As soon as I got into a job after college, I started writing a novel based on a fictional illegal bike racing set in Bangalore, calling it “THE RACE CLUB” (does it sound familiar?Yes this name appears in “Seed”). Little did I know that my writing was really bad, however good and interesting the plot may sound. Soon I remembered the short story I had read long long ago and realized that narration is equally important as the plot. I tried to improve on my writing after that.

Instead of eating the entire pizza at once, I thought it’s easy to start by taking little pieces and it turned out that I was capable of cutting them in 9 pieces and still be able to finish it off one at a time.

Would you like to share a few details of your professional (and personal) life?
All my life so far, I have spent most of my time in Bangalore. Right from my kindergarten to my engineering and my current work place, they all have been within 2K.M from my residence! I enjoy walking. Walking  up to my destination gives me enough time and opportunities to observe and come up with story plots! In addition to that I am single, which I believe was a blessing in disguise to spend my weekends in writing and completing “Navarasa by Lotus”!
At office, during the breaks I get into discussions on movies, TV-shows with my friends.

Coming to Navarasa by Lotus – Why such a title? What was the thought behind writing 9 interlinked stories based on the 9 Rasa? (I did read about your contemplation with self, but I need more details on this. Yes, I am snoopy.)
The original title of the book was “Navarasa”. However I felt that the title was not catchy. I thought of renaming it into a vague English transliteration calling it 9emos, referring to 9-emotions. But my conscience asked me if I was embarrassed by an Indian name. In order to have a mysterious title and also to console my conscience I added “by Lotus” to the title though my pen name is not “Lotus”. I always like to keep the readers guessing. The moment anyone see’s “Navarasa” in the title they would get a fair idea regarding the theme of the book. However the rest of the title “…by Lotus” would keep them guessing and curious. The
blurb too starts with saying “every pen name comes with a story…” Though the mystery is unravelled to the readers by the time they finish reading the book!

On why I chose 9 rasas. Let me quote an iconic line from the movie Forrest Gump. My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” It’s a very simple thought yet pretty much says a lot about life. Similarly I wanted to keep the readers in dark as to what is going to come up next in the line of 9 stories. Also it gives me opportunity to give variations in the mood of stories. I know that when a reader picks my book he or she is spending their most valuable time in reading it through. It becomes my top priority to make them feel redeemed for their time spent, when they finish reading the book (a cryptic message for the story title “Redemption”). A collection of stand alone stories, I felt would be predictable with an impending twist in the end. In order to give a different experience to the readers, I had to re-invent my writing skills to come up with non-linear narration, Rashoman style of narration, add more dimensions to the story with depth, varied timeline and finally link all the stories! I would call them as a hybrid of novel and short stories.

Coming to the 9 interlinked stories – the titles for all of them are quite weird, in a different, intriguing sort
of a way. I mean, Seed, Rat, Mutiny, T20, Loop, Wish, Office, N.H., Redemption…How did you stumble upon
them? What were you thinking?
“What’s in a name?” is what I initially thought, but I wanted to leave a mark of creativity in all areas of the book. A book’s each and every square inch according to me is a premium real estate for creativity! Be it the cover page, blurb etc hence I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. Being a title for short stories, it made sense to keep the titles as short as possible. More than a title, they serve as a cryptic one word blurb of the story, which may not be evident the moment one reads the title but eventually towards
the end of the story the name makes sense.For e.g: Seed, the title refers to the seed of hatred sown by the character “Dev” in his nephew’s mind. Also, down the line, the reader would realise that the first story “Seed” is literally a seed for the entire book as the following stories are one way or the other linked to this. Another example would be “Redemption” which I already mentioned previously.

 


Most first time authors end up writing/mentioning about incidents that they have experienced in life. Among the 9 stories, which one is closest to your heart or life?

All stories are purely fictional! Especially the story where mosquitoes wage a non-violent war against Humanity. However there is no denial in inspirations drawn. I would say that all story plots are a result of fantasized projections of my experience. For e.g: Once, my day was ruined because I hadn’t slept well the previous night, I couldn’t sleep well because the dogs were barking and on top of that the buzzing mosquitoes. When I thought about it, I wondered what could be going on with them and suddenly ideas
mutated and fantasized coming up with my theory “Mutiny”! I feel bad for other stories now that I pick “Mutiny” as the one closest to my heart!

Name some of your all time favorite authors/books.
I have been reading this book since maybe 5 years, and I am still unable to finish reading it as it is never ending with its main and sub plots, it’s written by V.Vyasa! The-Mahabharata. This is easily my most favourite book.

In recent times authors (pun intended) I would go with; Stephen King – Pet Cemetery, Matthew Reily – Temple and of course Chethan Bhagat’s classic – Five Point Someone. But it would be cruel if I don’t mention the books I began reading…Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Any of the new-age young/budding authors that you think have potential and talent to gather more readers?
Err…I am sorry, I am not sure if I can justify by answering this as I haven’t read a book in the last 2 years as
I was writing mine…

What next do we expect from your desk?
Currently am working on a full length novel finally! It’s tentatively called “Once Upon a Time…Revenge of the Poet!” It’s a story set in a fictional medieval time, with cryptic character names such as Jaci, Jenjhan, Panvyr etc. It is to me the greatest challenge as I experiment with a complex story narration and a story plot which deals with Kings, Princess, Ministers, Masked Vigilante, a Poet and a very mysterious condition of the society they live in! I am hoping that I complete the first edit by the year-end.

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Book Review of “Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce” by Judy Balan

No matter how “modern” we become in our thinking, some things will never change in the Indian society. I’m hinting at one of our most primary concerns, or should I say arrangement – marriage. People still have a lot of trouble convincing their folks to approve of their love/marriage, when they fall in love with a person outside their “community”. A “love marriage” sometimes is still looked down at, in most clans.
Let’s say you face all the music and convince your parents to get you married to the person you love and think it’s going to be a “happily ever after” sort of a life, only to realize that things are not really all that fine. And you (mutually) think of a divorce. Bhamm!
How do you think you’ll convince your parents for that!??!

 

Judy Balan’s debut novel “Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce” revolves around this very plot.
We have a cute couple, Deepika Sundar (a chirpy Tamilian girl) and Rishab Khanna (a handsome Punjabi boy) who after a lot of trials and tribulations convince their parents and get married, and within a couple of years think of getting divorced! On mutual grounds, of course. The trouble they majorly face here is: their parents have developed a fondness for them as well as their respective families. They now look up to Deepika and Rishab as the ideal couple and wish for the other children of their community to follow suit. Oh, and did I mention, how desperately both the families look forward to the couple having a baby!?! It’s true when they say, in India you don’t just marry a person, you marry the entire clan!
The crux of the story definitely is way different from any that I’ve heard/read in a long while. And let me confess, the writing got me hooked from the very first page – the acknowledgement and the prologue had me giggling and laughing and smiling and loving it all the way till the end.

The scenes (almost all of them) are funny and rightly over-dramatic. I could absolutely relate to each and every situation since I share a similar background (professionally and personally).
Imagine the roller coaster ride that the readers are put on, when a money conscious, traditional Tamil family blends in with the forever-partying-and-drowning-in-whiskey Punjabi family!
There is not a single page in here that will not crack you up. If you think the portrayal of Punjabi’s is overtly dramatic and “louder than the drums”, well…it is so! There’s a reason we are “fun-jabis”!

 

Judy has done justice to the plot and the story. It is simply interesting, humorous, entertaining, intriguing, and yes captivating! (Yes, that’s how impressed I was!)
The sweet quibble of the couple; the randomness of the forever-after-your-life- aunties; the pseudo-sophisticated behavior of the so-called NRIs; the typical struggle with boss/colleagues; and the understanding and love that the couple share will stay in your mind even after you put the book down.
For a debut novel, Judy has done wonders. The book makes up for a light read over a relaxed weekend.
Let’s give truly fictional scenes a pass, after all this is just a parody of “you-know-which-book”.

 

I recommend this to every person reading the review. Go pick it up!

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Book Review of “Navarasa by Lotus” by Rajiv

 

The author sent me a review copy and I was quite thrilled with the synopsis – 9 interlined stories based on the nine “rasas”. With interlinked characters, the author spins a web of captivating tales spanning different genres – love, fantasy, sci-fi, drama, all of course fictional.

Seed tell the story of a fading movie star (Rajan) – being the first story it got me really hooked. Very articulately drafted.

Rat is the story of a youth accidently taking form of a masked vigilante and brings out very human emotions.

Mutiny was like a surprise. Truly. I did not expect this to be a story of mosquitoes! I liked the names given to the characters (Hz , Ghz, Hag, etc.),who gang up to fight human domination.
One thing that stood out quite visibly was the poor edits in Rat and Mutiny. The author (or the editor) seems to have ignored major errors in the stories. Or did someone else fill up the author’s shoes momentarily?  The narrative / writing style hampered the reading pace. The flaws overshadow the novel plots.

T 20 talks about a couple, living in, facing hardships in their relationship. This story of Teja and Manoj has a different narrative then the rest of the stories in the book. I did not understand the usage of such a title for this story. It seemed unrelated.

Then we have Loop- a story where a girl (Lucky) is entangled in a loop that keeps her entangled on a particular day in a particular loop. Intriguing!

Wish tells the tale of a young school kid struggling to vent his anger.

Office and N.H. are linked and they spin around Rajiv and his love for Rashmi. This sci-fictional story glances at our society post 2012.

And finally, Redemption links them (stories) all.

The ideation and the thoughts behind each story are commendable. The cleverness in interlinking the stories brings out a unique story-writing capability. The editing flaws are barely any (apart from Rat and Mutiny) and the style is quite riveting. I did not mind reading the book twice only to notice the connects more prominently the second time.
Definitely a must read. Highly recommended!

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Book Review of “Taming The Restless Mind” By Rashmi Singh

 

This book, I believe, is Rashmi Singh’s first non-fictional offering. A freelance Personality Development Trainer and Counselor, Rashmi has compiled small pearls of wisdom for her readers.
Pitching the book to be a guide, to tame your mind, Rashmi has put together about 20, quite prominent, topics that indeed are the factors that lead to unrest in the mind.

I would suggest young adults to give it a read. It is sure to help them as they walk the path of life- in college and in the corporate world.

But for most folks like me, these are topics that we are familiar with and know the nitty-gritty of the consequences they bring. The book seemed very interesting to me initially, but within a few pages it was too predictable. There was no novelty for me.

Also, I did not quite understand the usage of all caps words/sentences in between. If a point needs to be stressed up on highly, making the text “bold” could’ve worked just as fine. The usage of caps in between did not go well with my reading process. I did find many grammatical and other flaws but since the flow was soft and easy, I guess I shall by-pass them for now.

People dealing with confidence and self development issues must give it a read. There are many winning tricks highlighted in the book that are bound to help readers gather and uplift their self-esteem and decision making skills.

I will suggest this book to youngsters definitely so that they are at least aware of the things that they are doing wrong (yes, already) and how they can improve their communication and interpersonal skills, as they stand on the brink of the transition (from a youngster to an adult).

 

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Interview with Rashmi Singh

 

Love’s Journey is the debut novel of Rashmi Singh, a freelance Personality Development and Soft Skills Trainer at Faridabad.
From talking about her personal and professional life to her take on love, Rashmi gives us an insight on present day society woes and much more. Read on.

Tell us a bit about your professional background. How did you steer towards becoming a Personality Development and Soft Skills Trainer?
I had been quite active during my school/college days- Taking part in Painting, Elocution, Drama, Creative Writing Competitions (both in Hindi and English, winning prizes for Elocution/Recitation from RamaKrishna Pramhansa Society, Ranchi, second prize in dramatics, in B.H.U-.I.T. and from diff. prestigious platforms) and other co curricular activities saw a growth in my Personality. I was very good academically (except Math-ooops!), winning Best Class Citizen Award consecutively for 2yrs in school. My life could not be perceived without these!!!
I connected well with my friends without having ideas that I was better than others or others were better than me….though I wasn’t the partying type. My ability (God Gifted) to connect with friends made me the elected Joint Sec., of my college though just after graduation I got married.

Marriage came with so many other regular responsibilities which weren’t easy to shoulder so my studies saw a break. But I am thankful to my very good schooling (Notre Dame Academy, Patna and Loreto Convent, Ranchi) that I got a chance to teach English in a school where my child had taken admission-thence my journey started. Along with teaching, I carried on with my educational pursuits and finally did M.A., M.B.A., C.T.E. In schools I was generally asked by the Principal to counsel students and parents and this idea came up in my mind to hone and polish the personality of others with my own experiences of life-So about 12 years back, I quit schools and started as a Freelance Personality Dev. and Soft Skills Trainer.

What is the one thing that you think is quite important when it comes to communication skills and personality development?
It is confidence coupled with being well-informed. If you have confidence and correct information of things for which a person needs extensive reading, then his/her language defects, dressing sense, etc. could be easily covered up. But not over- confidence- this leads to miscommunication.

Would you like to share with our reader, your earliest memories of writing?
Yes, why not!
Like I mentioned, Creative Writing came to me naturally, I was always into a flight of fancy in my imaginary world. I watched people, their mannerisms very intently. Why people-I even watched animals..clouds..flowers.. My poems and write ups were published in college magazines and local dailies but at that time we didn’t have much opportunities. Moreover I belonged to a conservative Rajput family, though was provided with the best of education but all these were mainly done with one objective-marriage. But the writer in me often fought with the woman in me and I kept on writing in my diaries continually. I have 2 blogs Riviera and Lost Tranquility in the Asia Section of an International website.
But recently these blogs have become a scapegoat of the rules of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting- the write ups are there but the illustration in the form of pictures have been blocked. But this has not deterred me. Actually I am more energized now.

You get to meet a lot many people every day, given your line of work. Did that in any way trigger you to write a story/novel? As in, what brought about the ideation of “Love’s Journey”?
Yes, I meet many. There are many married men/ women who are leading an unhappy life. Though they profess, they love their spouses but actually are not happy. Many want to get out of their wedlock but have certain fears!

And above all the YOUNGSTERS. The no. of jilted lovers are increasing by leaps and bounds these days!!! Progress has come with increased no. of suicides.

Sleeping with one and then moving around with others. Though in such cases often the males do not have any qualms but the females to a great extent are traumatized. Though while narrating their stories, they try to hide their physical relationship but their restlessness and eyes tell all!!!
So I took a backdrop of Bollywood and wrote about the feelings of a woman who has to overcome hurdles of life and I think being a Counselor has helped me a lot in etching the characters.

How would you define “love”?
Love is something which cannot be defined or measured!
It is just a feeling. It rises above physical appearance and mental make up. According to me love is something when you understand a person-give him/her space. Sex is obviously there but in couples where this becomes primary, love cannot stand even a single negative onslaught. Like in Love’s Journey Jennifer falls in love four times… but with Shambhu her love was a platonic and the most strongly bonded one. She knew she was crushing her desires, then too she wasn’t at all feeling bad because the kind of selfless love Shambhu was showering on her was never experienced by her before. And with Shantanu she thought after all she had found the love of her life with her body physically craving for him but eventually it sucked her into a vacuum!!!

Who, according to you, is the epitome of love in your life?
From renowned and known figures, it is Radha- I think Radha, Krishna’s beloved is the epitome of love. She never demanded anything from him…She was married but had the courage million years ago to admit this. And nobody knows what became of her when Krishna left her. It is said Krishna gave her a place along with him to be worshipped but there is no mention of the fact, that where she went..what she did.

Wasn’t this Krishna’s responsibility to see what became of his beloved? Radha had the courage to let the world know she loved Krishna.

How was the experience of having authored a book? Have things changed in anyway? Did you face any apathy from publishers or agents in the publishing industry?
It was great! First time people could know about me-my ability to feel things around me and l
gave them ‘language’ And I for the first time could really let out my feelings to the world. Monetarily it hasn’t changed but fame wise it has!! People now relate to me. As a Personality Development Trainer, I could reach out to a limited people but now I am able to reach the masses!

Pustak Mahal People are very good and extremely co operative to me and hence far I have interacted with them only. I have no agents. I do my own Liaison. But many of my friends with finished work are facing apathy from agents and Publishers. I can’t name them as this may hamper their hard work

What’s your take on the sudden rise in the number of new young authors?
It is really nice to see that now so many young people are getting their desired platform.

What’s your favorite genre? Name some of your favorite authors and books.
Recently I read ‘The Palace of Illusions‘ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni-It’s really gripping.
Paulo Coelho‘s ‘Veronica decides to die‘ is also thought provoking.
There’s nothing like my favourite Genre. I read anything which attracts my attention.

What next do we read from your desk?
Taming The Restless Mind is a very sincere and honest effort from my side to guide people across the world! I know many would be scandalized to see a woman dealing with topics which is considered a taboo in our society-but then someone has to! Topics like confidence development/communication skill is obviously there but topics like Peer Pressure, Job Stress, Dating, Drugs, Internet Porn Addiction, Nudity, Bed Buddies, Sexual Myths and Facts are also there. So you can say it is a complete package to tame restless minds!
Though a non fiction, it is written in a narrative style. The chapters are gripping with solutions provided to the best of my belief and faith.

Rashmi certainly has shown a knack for plotting a good story and etching relatable characters. I look forward to reading her latest non-fictional offering.

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